This afternoon I stumbled upon a movie in the movie library called “Wakefield”. It is starred by Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner. I always look up for the trailer of every movie before watching it, just to ensure the movie is worth my precious two hours of attention that I am very stingy to devote.
Before the movie began, I could already sense the movie is not for the taste of everyone. Not the ones who can’t tolerate ambiguity or open-ending. Not to mention the boring and monotonous narrative which covers almost the entire length of the movie.
The movie begins with a man named Howard Wakefield, who is a white collar worker from New York City in his mid-life crisis. For reasons that remained undisclosed throughout the movie, he decided to leave, not running away from home but stepping back into the wild, in his words, the primal arena where he was meant to be. In actual, he was hiding in the garage located opposite his house which later allowed him to survey every movement of his wife and daughters and also made it convenient for him to scavenge through the trash bin for food.
In the movie, Howard mentioned that he had a jealousy complex with his beautiful wife, Diana who used to be a ballet dancer. I remember he confided in one part of the movie that she was only a trophy he wanted to win over. Before she married him, Howard had a strong love competitor named Dirk Morrison. In fact, Diana was seeing Howard when she was involved with Dirk. I couldn’t quite get why she decided to sleep with Howard and refused to do so with Dirk though. But it was clear that someone had to go, and the person was obviously Dirk.
Having to live off in the garage, Howard always looked forward to seeing his wife going to work. So he could sneak back into his house to clean himself and pack the essentials. He also admitted being the kind of father who would embarrass her daughters in front of her friends. The way in which Diana reacted to his disappearance was rather conventional. Rang up the office and called the police department. But what struck me was that the policemen who came interrogating Diana did not raid the garage! well yeah, otherwise the movie could’ve ended right away if they found him. She knew his disappearance was not premeditated as the bank account and personal assets were left untouched.
As months went by, Howard started appearing more unkempt; untrimmed hair, full-beard, disheveled clothes. His life had never been that scattered before. At one point, I suspected Howard had some sort of mental disorder that resorted to pulling off these tricks. But no, he was fully aware of his decisions and he wickedly finds joy in seeing her suffer. Partly because she could not move on without knowing what had happened to him. Howard made a remark that all that he wanted was for her to care for him the way he cared for her. He knew that as long as he did not show up, Diana would have to live under his mercy and play his cards as she wouldn’t be able to move on emotionally.
The point is further strengthened by the fact that he always chuckled from afar seeing her turning down invitations and advances from guys that intended to replace the deceased.
In his mind, Howard always imagined various possible reactions of his wife and daughters had he suddenly put himself out again. How would he explain to them? What can he do to justify his actions? He did not seem to have the answer to that. But no matter the real reason he left, he portrayed the image of a coward who ran away from reality and abandoned his responsibilities as a colleague, father, and husband, only to be the slave and prisoner of his soul, trapped in a garage.
He was struggling, repeatedly asking himself how far was he willing to let his ruse go.
On another perspective, I remember vividly a quote that might justify his action. Howard said: “Suburban life, so much is the same, week after week. Who hasn’t had the impulse to put their life on hold for a moment, just vanish completely?” I mean, he has a point here!
Moving forward, it was already winter time. (the movie started off in a summer setting). Time must have done a pretty damn good job in fading off Diana’s concern for her husband. She started seeing people again. She was infatuated. Howard noticed the joy from her smile, a very familiar kind of facial expression she used to show to him. Yep, Dirk came back for her and she seemed to be more reciprocating this time.
Approaching the end, Howard decided to pick himself up again. The last few scenes showed him getting his messy hair fixed and going to a thrift shop for apparel. The stud was back. Except now he wasn’t sure if Diana was still looking for him, or if she still needed him in her life. Nevertheless, he entered the house anticipating her reaction. It all came to a cliffhanger of an ending.
How do you think Diana and the daughters would’ve reacted? Did he manage to get away with his unplanned vanishing?